Pacific News Minute: Rising Tensions Between U.S. and China Include Naval and Air Maneuvers

Jan 29, 2019

U.S.S. Sampson and U.S.S. Pinckney
Credit Official U.S. Navy Page / Flickr

You may have heard on the news that the United States filed charges yesterday against the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei and its Chief Financial Officer. Tomorrow, the two countries start high stakes negotiations on the on-going trade war. And both the U.S. and China continue military displays in the Western Pacific.

Military aircraft and warships from both countries showed the flag near Taiwan last week. On Tuesday, a Chinese fighter and a transport plane circled the island. On Thursday, two American warships sailed south to north through the Taiwan Strait, and then a formation of Chinese bombers and early warning planes flew into the Western Pacific through the Bashi Channel, which separates the southern tip of Taiwan from the Philippines.

The pace of these operations has stepped up. For example, this was the fourth transit of the Taiwan Strait by American warships in the past six months.

As usual, China objected to what it described as a violation of its sovereignty; as usual, the United States Pacific Fleet issued a bland press release describing a routine operation. Following his recent visit to Beijing, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson told reporters in Tokyo that he told his Chinese counterparts that these transits would continue. He said, “We see the Taiwan Straits as another set of international waters.”

China does not. It regards the 110-mile-wide passage as territorial waters and insists that foreign warships ask permission in advance.

Chinese state media quoted General Li Zuocheng, a member of China’s Central Military Commission, as telling Admiral Richardson: “If someone tries to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will do whatever it takes to safeguard national reunification, national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”